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Letter from Alfred Penny to his brother; December 8, 1861

Letter from Alfred Penny to his brother; December 8, 1861

Letter from Alfred Penny to his brother; December 8, 1861

New York State Library, NYSL_SC11836_Alfred_Penny_letter_18611208
Document Description
Letter from Civil War soldier Alfred Penny to his brother Charles (Charley), 1861.
Head Quarters 2nd Regt NYSM
Camp Gorman Poolsville
            Sunday Dec 8th 1861
Brother Chas
                        I have just got
Back from the Banks of the
Potomac whear our company
have ben on Pickett duty
for the past few days our
orders were not to talk to the
seceshies but while I was
sitting on the bank thinking
of nothing I saw three Rebels
sitting on a log on the opposite
shore. So I commenced to whistle
“Yankee doodle” they Listend very
attentive until I had finished
and then they laughed and
applauded me by clapping their hands
then I suppose they thought they
would entertain me and they
 tuned up and whistled
“Dixie Land” after this I called
some of the boys and they
commenced to talk to them
they belonged to the 21st Regt.
Mississippi Rifles they seemed to
be quite friendly and cheerful
they asked me to come over
but I declined.
the Catto is Beating and I must
leave this unfinished till
            Monday Morning Dec 9th
                                    I have just
finished my breakfast and all
the rest of the Boys have gone
out to wash their clothes up
it is getting almost to cold to
wash now most all the Boys
send their clothes to some Negro
house and let them wash them
I had a letter from Arch
last week when he was at
Darnestown but he has moved
to Frederick city since then
We are almost tired of talking
about winter quarters Most all
the Boys have made under
ground stoves in their tents I
have not for I don’t think they
are healthy, we have changed
our Uniforms from that of the
state to that of the Regulars on
dress Parade we wear the Army
hat and plume and Brass
Epuletts Blue Frock Coat- Black
Pants, Boots Blackened and
White gloves it is worth a
dollar to see us on a dress
Parade or a Review we have
got a new Band it is a
good one to it was made
to order in New York thear
is 21 Pieces all together
 I think the People around
home are getting very slack
about writing. Charley write
me a good long letter and I
will be more prompt in answering
it than I have My love to
all from Your
            Company E 2nd Regt. NYSM
            Col GWB Tompkins
            Poolsville MD
            I am coming home on
            Furlough after the war is over
            I have tried to get one before
            But I cant
What information does Alfred give to his little brother in this letter?
What is the overall tone of the letter?

About this Activity


Lesson Topic:


Historical Context
When the American Civil War began in 1861, citizens of both the North and South had no idea how long the conflict would last. Many Northerners, including the Union army leaders, envisioned a three-month war that would quickly bring the South back into the Union. The assumption that it would be a short war, coupled with a surge in patriotism, led thousands of New Yorkers to voluntarily join the army. The men of the Penny family were no exception.

In 1860, the Penny family consisted of seven members: Elijah, Jane, Archibald, Alfred, Eugene, Charles, and Louise. They lived in the town of Southeast in Putnam County, New York. Elijah, the father, and the two older boys, Archibald and Alfred all volunteered to fight for the Union in 1861. The letters, census records, and military documents all provide a glimpse into one New York family's experience during this time of national unrest.

Essential Question
What impact did the Civil War have on individual citizens, families, and local communities?
Check for Understanding
If you were Alfred's little brother, Charles, what would you think about the war after reading this letter from Alfred?